Contributing, through integration of biology and chemistry, to achieving a sustainable society that recycles both resources and energy
Director, CSRS: Kazuo Shinozaki
Since the turn of the 20th century, humanity has been using fossil fuels as resources for energy and materials. However, supplies of fossil fuels are limited, and our consumption of large amounts of fossil fuels is increasing the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, resulting in global warming.
For humanity to survive, it is crucial that we shift from an oil-consuming society to a sustainable one, by utilizing recyclable biological resources.
The challenge of the RIKEN Center for Sustainable Resource Science is to achieve a resource and energy sustainable society through the fusion of different fields, such as biology, chemistry and chemical biology. To this end, we have established four key projects: “Carbon,” “Nitrogen,” “ Metallic Elements” and “Research Platforms.”
With the first project, Carbon, we aim to convert the global warming gas CO2 in the atmosphere into useful substances. We are developing technology for enhanced photosynthesis and CO2 fixation catalysts. Our goal is to develop technology to allow us to freely produce useful resources from CO2.
Currently, we use lot of fertilizer for crop cultivation. The basic ingredient of fertilizer, ammonia, is synthesized from nitrogen in the atmosphere in a process that is carried out at high temperatures and pressures. As a result, this process consumes huge amounts of fossil fuels. So, with our second project, Nitrogen, we are investigating new methods of producing ammonia with fixed nitrogen under milder conditions by developing innovative catalysts. Furthermore, we are conducting research to improve environmental tolerance and disease resistance, which affect the productivity of crops and biomass, and boost plants’ growth rates.
Japan is a resource-poor country and imports most of its food and energy. At the same time, many valuable metals are often simply buried without being recycled, and these dumps have come to be known as “urban mines.” So in our third project, Metallic Elements, we are developing the technology to recover and use metallic elements efficiently without imposing a load on the environment. To do this, we hope to utilize the functions of plants such as mosses and microorganisms. Also, expensive rare metals are often used as catalysts in chemical reactions, but we aim to develop catalysts that make use of abundant inexpensive metals.
In Research Platforms, we are strengthening research by combining three research platforms – the Metabolomics Analysis Platform, which conducts comprehensive research on biological metabolic products; the Comprehensive Metabolomics Platform, which is a combination of Chemical Bank collected from natural compounds based on natural organisms and a platform to conduct research into and evaluate physiologically active substances; and the Artificial Biosynthesis Platform of plants and microorganisms. We are using this state-of-the-art infrastructure to provide compounds to research institutes in Japan and abroad.
We are also investigating the use of biomass as a substitute resource for fossil fuels. In collaboration with the RIKEN Cluster for Industry Partnerships, we are looking into producing new chemical materials made from biomass and investigating physiologically active substances that could lead to new medicines.
The RIKEN Center for Sustainable Resource Science’s mission is to enhance the use of biomaterials based on an understanding of the diversity of both biological and chemical functions, and contributing to the society by developing production technologies that are gentle on the natural world and promote a sustainable society.
- Recycling and reusing biological and chemical resources without placing a load on the environment.
- Current organization chart is available here.
- Pamphlets and other publications in PDF are available here.
- CSRS Advisory Council
- Reports from an external advisory council is available here.